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7 Things Non-Muslims Always Wondered About Hari Raya Haji

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 •  Aug 21, 2018

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[Updated 18 July 2021] Hari Raya Haji, also known as Aidiladha or Eid Al-Adha, is one of the most significant days in the Islamic year! On this date, we commemorate the feeling of togetherness and sacrifice. But that's not all! There are many things about this special date that not many people (even us Muslims!) may know about. So sit tight as we answer some of the questions you've probably always wondered about Hari Raya Haji but never knew about till now 😉
1. Didn't you just celebrate Hari Raya?
Yes, we did. 🙈 But both celebrations are of different significance! Hari Raya Puasa (also known as Eid al-Fitr) is to celebrate the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, whereas Hari Raya Haji marks the end of the peak of Hajj (pilgrimage). This pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca is mandatory for every Muslim to perform at least once in their lifetime - but only if they are physically and financially able to!
Credit: menj on FlickrThere's only one month in each Islamic year that Muslims are able to perform the Hajj and this is during the 12th month in the Islamic calendar, Zulhijjah. And because of this time constraint and thelimited space in Mecca, not everyone is able to perform the Hajj every year even if we are able to 😥 The waitlist for Hajj can sometimes even span for years or decades!
2. Are people still performing the Hajj right now during the COVID-19 pandemic?
As of July 2021, The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah that 60,000 pilgrims representing 150 countries from inside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had been selected to perform Hajj 2021. No foreign pilgrims will be allowed to perform the Hajj out of safety considerations. While this is heartbreaking for many people who look forward to it, knowing that this is done for the greater good and health of everyone helps to ease the pain somewhat. With crowd control and social distancing measures put in place, the pandemic has made this a rather unprecedented event as Hajj crowds typically reach millions of visitors.
3. So what's the difference between Hari Raya Haji and Hari Raya Puasa?
Hari Raya Haji is also known as the "Feast of the Sacrifice", and the highlight of Hari Raya Haji is not to go house-visiting but to honour the willingness of Prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God. While Ibrahim was prepared to perform this heartbreaking act as an act of faith and obedience to God, his son was not actuallysacrificed! Just when the Prophet was about to carry out the command, God intervened and replaced his son with a sheep. So now, we sacrifice (Qurban) a sheep during Hari Raya Haji to recognise this sacrifice and to show our own devotion to God. ☺️
The ritual is significant as it reminds us of the meaning of sacrifice. Each of us is probably going through our own personal sacrifices and at times, giving up seems easier. But if we stand firm in our belief in God - just like how Prophet Ibrahim did - we will definitely be given the strength to pull through our challenges 🤗
4. But why are the animals tortured to death?
Unfortunately, the ritual has been plagued by conflicting accounts of how they are carried out. But if there's one thing we can assure you, it's that the animals are definitely not being tortured! In fact, the animals' comfort and welfare are of utmost importance during the whole process. Islam's method of slaughter ensures a quick and humane death to the animal.
Credit: Mohd Fazlin Mohd Effendy Ooi on FlickrOne of the conditions of animal slaughter in Islam is that a sharp knife must be used and the two jugular veins (windpipe and food-tract)must be cut, not beheaded. As this leads to a sudden loss of blood from the brain, the animal's body will shut down almost immediately - ensuring a fast and almost painless death. During the ritual, some countries like Singapore take it a step further as all 'slaughtermen' have to be trained. MUIS (the Islamic body in Singapore) also conducts pre-inspections of participating premises and on-site inspection during the ritual 😀
5. Is qurban still taking place right now during the pandemic?
Due to COVID-19 pandemics this year, Singapore's MUIS has even instituted controls to ensure that hygiene standards are higher than ever. No qurban will be taking place in Singapore this year. Instead, MUIS and certain mosques or organisations have arranged for modified qurbans to be conducted overseas in Australia (where the sheep for qurban usually come from) or in needy villages. Singaporean Muslims will receive the meat from their qurban after it's been shipped from Australia.
Overseas qurbans have been around for several years now, so thankfully it's become a convenient option for those who wish to perform qurban but may not be able to do it locally. 😊
6. The sheep is so big, how do you finish all the meat?
Well, we don't! Remember when we said that Hari Raya Haji revolves around the theme of sacrifice? This extends tothe distribution of meat too 🤗 Although we 'bought' the sheep for the ritual, we are not the only ones who consume the meat. Muslims are highly encouraged to give most of the meat to the needy! The widely recommended distribution is that one-third of the meat is given to the poor and needy, another one-third to friends and neighbours, and the last third to be kept for ourselves. And this is not limited to those in your own country! Many people these days choose to do their sacrifice in less developed countries such as Syria, where the meat will be entirely donated to the needy.
7. Do you still get green packets on Hari Raya Haji?
It's not a norm, but you can if you want to! You'd be surprised to know that the practice of green packets is not mandatory in Islam. Giving green packets is simply a tradition. 😌 And even if you'd like to give, just give what you can afford! Sincerity is the very basis of Islam, as we believe that in everything we do, our intentions must be pure and sincere. So there's no need to conform to the 'standard' rate of green packets 😉 If you're a non-Muslim who's been invited to a Muslim friend's house for aHari Raya get-together and you're unsure about whether to give out green packets to their children, don't be afraid to ask your friend about it and work out something you're both comfortable with! 😊 There you go! We hope we've clarified some of your questions about Hari Raya Haji. But don't stop here! Share this article with your friends so they too would know what this special date is all about 😊